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In previous years, Bookend has taken students on interactive and actual experiences from the World Heritage Wilderness of south-west Tasmania to Lord Howe Island, Antarctica, Papua New Guinea and Thailand. These adventures have covered volcanos, wilderness survival, coastal management, threatened species and more. In 2014 we started a range of projects under the banner of SIXTEEN LEGS. 

"One of this year’s most spectacular Tasmanian public events."

- The Mercury (see media links below)


SIXTEEN LEGS is an inter-linked suite of projects focussed around the world of antipodean CAVES and CAVE BIOLOGY. It reports on the results of a 24-year scientific research project, 2 years of filming, and hundreds of millions of years of evolution, from the break-up of Gondwana to the present day!

This is a home of twisted beauty, haven to a variety of weird inhabitants but hostile to others. It is a place that hides animals surviving from the first age of the dinosaurs, but where insects can drown in the very air itself. Enter a world full of weird animals and unusual rock formations, overseen by still-living, giant prehistoric spiders the size of a dinner plate...

"Very impressive. Congratulations on a wonderful exhibition."

"Brilliant... telling a very important story in an exciting way."

- Public feedback 


Bookend's multi award-winning education program presents this material in several ways, including:

  • SIXTEEN LEGS: Cave Search (see the video clip above) - Our interactive Adventure Learning program EXPEDITION CLASS takes Primary students around the world into the realm of caves, with real-time expedition links, full teacher resources  aligned to the Australian curriculum, interactive online student activities, and an expert forum linking students directly with relevant scientists (see here and here). In 2014 this provided (i) direct school visits to some 1300 primary students to discuss and develop an expedition topic centered on caves, (ii) creation of Australian-curriculum aligned teaching resources that were distributed to participating schools, totaling an additional online audience of 3000 students, (iii) running of a one-month expedition by experts to survey and explore new caves, with an online satellite link back to the online students who could interact with the explorers directly – asking questions and helping shape the expedition. The Mercury newspaper partnered with Bookend to print regular updates in the hard copy of the newspaper (reaching a weekday regional readership of 97,000 people) and to share a weekly blog online via the Mercury website (averaging 34,000 page impressions daily). In total, a direct daily reach of over a quarter of the Tasmanian population through this outlet alone!
  • SIXTEEN LEGS: Cave ART - Our high school program SKULLBONE provides students with hands-on experiences on and under ground to (i) experience an expedition to caves with scientific experts, (ii) to meet with media experts to view footage capturing key ecological events that are hard to witness directly in caves, and (iii) to undertake a behind-the-scenes visit to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) to see how artists use different methods to convey messages to mass audiences. This culminated in their own interpretation of caves to be shared with global audiences online and in display at the Enter the cave Exhibition (below), with the winners being offered the opportunity to win a trip to see Antarctica with their own eyes! Find out more about the Cave Art program here, see the spectacular student art here, or read about the winners here.   
  •  SIXTEEN LEGS: Cave ART Open - An Australia-wide version of the Cave ART program, without the specific tuition, but open to entries from around the country for students who want to try their hand at winning either an ocean adventure or an Antarctic flight alongside the other winners.

"Sending in my application for the Bookend Trust’s Cave Art Program was one of the best decisions of my life. I have benefited greatly from the entire experience and it has continued to open up a whirlwind of opportunities."

- Cave ART student Sophie Ambler.

  • SIXTEEN LEGS: Enter the Cave Exhibition - A showcase travelling exhibition of caves, cave biology and the work behind finding out what makes this unique environment work The Exhibition consists of (i) 48 giant backlit panels representing a photographic journey into the science and conservation management of caves and groundwater, including the biology of the caves and the spider, (ii) woven within these is the outline of the dark fairytale telling of this story, designed in collaboration with Queensland artist Jodee Taylah and international best-selling author NEIL GAIMAN; (iii) these panels are surrounded with art works inspired by the exhibition, and created by both local artists and the Cave ART students mentioned above (see their descriptions of their works here), and (iv) 2 giant mating spider replicas with 18 foot leg-spans on a giant web in the roof of the exhibition area, and a giant egg-sac pulsating with spider young...

EXHIBITION touring information here:  

Hobart TAS, August 2014

Naracoorte SA, May 2015

Ulverstone TAS, Nov 2015 - Mar 2016

Launceston TAS, Apr - Jun 2016

Sydney NSW, August 2016
(more info coming soon)

Kangaroo Island SA, Sept-Oct 2016
(more info coming soon)

Sydney NSW, Oct 2016 - July 2017
(more info coming soon)

Penrith NSW, July 2016 (more info coming soon)


"Truly magnificent. One of the best cave-related displays that I have seen in my viewings around the world." 

- Andy Spate - Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association.

"Inspiring. Amazing work, in quality and diversity." 

- Cave ART judges Kirsha Kaechele (MONA) & Professor Peter Davies (UTAS).


SIXTEEN LEGS: A Visit to the Queen of the Dark - A coffee-table book of the Production Art developed for the SIXTEEN LEGS exhibition and documentary in collaboration with international best-selling author and Bookend Patron NEIL GAIMAN, with a supporting photographic book, 'KINKY LOVE', on the lifecycle of the animals involved. These books are a glimpse of the creative process in progress, they showcase the student art, and they act as a fundraiser supporting the overall project. Pre-orders of the books have flowed from all over the globe, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Spain, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, the UAE, China, South Africa, Brazil, Singapore and Malaysia! This is already supporting a student scholarship to undertake further research into cave environments.


  • 16 LEGS: Spider Love - Although the main documentary won't be finished until 2015, this shorter 'making-of' piece on the filming to date will have a dual-hemisphere world premiere on November 9 at both the Breath of Fresh Air (BOFA) Film Festival in Australia and the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in Canada. It is also a finalist in the Banff Festival's prestigious annual film competition, and in November 2014 our cinematographer JOE SHEMESH was awarded a rare double GOLD AWARD from the Australian Society of Cinematographers for his outstanding Wildlife and Nature Cinematography. UPDATE: in addition to the prior awards, Joe has also now been given a 2015 Award of Distinction by the ACS for his work on SIXTEEN LEGS, and has won a further GOLDEN TRIPOD Award for his other natural history work. Well done Joe!

  • SIXTEEN LEGS: the Documentary - Composed from the footage captured to display this story - including lifecycles, secrets and unique animal behaviours that break the usual rules and have never before been captured in moving footage, let alone at a quality that not only illustrates the science but has informed and furthered our understanding of these unique animals. The SIXTEEN LEGS documentary was recently showcased to an audience of global broadcasters and media experts in France as one of only seven 'in production' natural history documentaries selected from around the globe. More information available here.
  • And more - watch this space for a few more surprises...

"Excellent, great involvement of students."

"Congratulations for inspiring the natural history scientists of the future."

- Public feedback

 Why is this important? As the world faces ever increasing environmental problems, we need to inspire the upcoming generations to find the enthusiasm, dedication and innovation to deal with them. Sitting back and giving up is not an option, and this project is a spark to raise awareness of the untold biodiversity stories hidden away on our planet


"Dear Andrew, my class really enjoyed the Expedition Cave Search. Maybe next year you could come to Taveuni Island in Fiji. We have lots of caves. We read your blog every day. We did all of the week quizzes. I like the caves, animals and the formations. I learned what a zoologist and a botanist are. Now I want to be a zoologist when I am older. Thank you so so so much!"

- Feedback from Primary school students in Fiji.



Cave Search:  Start   Week1 Blog    Week 2 Blog   Week 3 Blog   Week 4 Blog 

                        See also the daily reports to schools on the Cave Search site.

Cave Art:  Press release on winners   Circular Head Chronicle   The Mercury   ABC Mornings  

                        ABC Radio North (to be added)   ABC Radio South (to be added)

The Exhibition: Overview   Setting up   ABC One   ABC Radio   7 News   ACKMA Caving Journal

The Documentaries: ABC Australia   ABC Australia  SBS Australia   The Mercury   The Guardian  

                         News Limited   9 News   Daily Mail   Nine MSN   Australian Cinematographer

"Wonderful - so comprehensive and inspiring."

"Great to have art and science together!"

"A great concept, brilliantly executed. Many congratulations."

"Bloody marvellous."

- Public feedback

 To express interest in this project, for students, teachers, media or anyone around the globe, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Thanks to all contributors, including support from the Tasmanian Department of Education, the Parks & Wildlife Service, the Pennicott Foundation, Stormfront Film, ICS Multimedia, Digital City Studios, MONA, the Clarence City Council, and Bookend's fantastic patron Neil Gaiman.

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estimated at travelling 5kms west per yea
Last Updated on Monday, 21 March 2016 23:06